Carrileufu River Lodge

Carrileufu River Lodge4

Fly fishing at Carrileufu River Lodge in Argentina

About 3 hours south of San Carlos de Bariloche in Patagonia Argentina, is a sleepy little town called Cholila, in which the humble ranch house of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid still stands as a remnant of their attempt at a peaceful existence. But just beyond the outlaws’ hideaway, lies one of the most scenic of Argentina fly fishing destinations; with multiple river and lake watersheds and spectacular Los Alerces National Park, and all within a moment’s reach of Carrileufu River Lodge.

Carrileufu Valley Lodge offers a wide array of activities; but make no mistake, this is a fly fisherman’s lodge. It’s comfortable, (bordering on classic mountain luxury in the main living area); but lacks any sense of pretension. It’s the kind of place where you can sit with companions and enjoy a five star meal, then fill a glass with fine single-malt and ease back into a leather chair in front of the huge fireplace, smoke a cigar, and be yourself. Even after long days of fly fishing, I found myself lingering in exactly that mode until the wee hours of the morning, sharing stories and laughter with new found friends. Lodge owner, Pancho Panzer, has taken an extraordinary location and crafted an environment that harkens back to days gone by. I read countless stories as a boy describing the old private fishing lodges tucked away in the Adirondacks, where fishermen from the big cities came to enjoy a respite from their daily lives and find peace in nature; Carrileufu River Lodge brought that vision to life for me.

Carrileufu River Lodge1The main living area of the lodge is open and spacious, and offers several seating areas for those who wish to mingle, or find a little solitude. Classic leather furniture and antique fixtures fill the floor level below a towering ceiling and enormous main roof beams chiseled from old growth cypress. An ancient carpentry table has been converted to serve as a bar (nicely stocked), and a good variety of Argentine wines fill several storage racks behind. There is very little you could wish for that won’t be found in this collection; and the varietals are carefully matched with gourmet offerings in the evening. The staff at Carrileufu Valley Lodge is adept at providing high levels of service, and yet remaining almost invisible as they attend to details. They pay close attention to guests’ preferences for beverages, breakfast, etc., and each day that passes brings a more personalized experience.

Carrileufu River Lodge3Five private rooms are accessed down a long hallway, each with a view of the beautiful green lawn in front, and horse pasture slightly beyond. Rooms may have either two single beds for double occupancy, or a large single; and each has a private bath room. Naturally, there are sufficient hooks for your gear outside of each room, and outside the main lodge for wet waders and boots. And for those of you who just can’t quite let go of the rest of the world when you should be relaxing, internet service with Wi-Fi is available.

Fly fishing the rivers of southern Patagonia

So that’s enough about the comfort factor; now let’s get to the heart of it, the fishing. The lodge lays almost dead center of a stunning valley that includes Lago Cholila, Rio Carrileufu, Lago Rivadavia, Rio Rivadavia, Lago Verde, and on and on until the chain pierces the Chilean border and makes its way to the Pacific Ocean. The point is, there is an astonishing variety of world-class fishing surrounding Carrileufu River Lodge. I had taken it on good authority from my friend, Willy Ricigliano, (guide, outfitter, master rod builder and casting instructor), that this area would offer untold adventure and rewards; and true to Willy’s word, it didn’t disappoint. The landscape in this part of Patagonia differs greatly from the north, and begins to more closely resemble the old growth forests across the border. Beautiful old Cypress, Coihue (pronounced Coy-Way), and countless other species that I can’t recall fill the hills down to the river’s edge. One of the noticeable differences related to this tree cover, is that trees this size occasional find their way into the rivers, and provide brilliant cover for large trout. The waters here are gin clear, and ambush cover something of a luxury for 4-6 kilo brown trout and rainbows; and being able to see them bolt from cover and smash a fly is a heart throbbing event.

Pancho and his team of guides have been living, fishing, and guiding in this area for decades; and have the on-water experience to keep you in the action. During my stay, I had the chance to fish with guide, Diego Raimondi, and was thoroughly impressed with his local knowledge and passion for fly fishing. Over a two and a half day stay, we fished four completely different areas; including wading riffles, floating the middle section of the Carrileufu, hiking into a beautiful spring creek inside Los Alerces National Park, and finally floating the entire length of the Rio Rivadavia. These waters all offer something unique for the travelling fly fisherman in terms of method and terminal tackle. Most of you know by now that I’m a junkie for throwing full sink line and ripping streamers (quite successfully I might add); but in many of these rivers my fishing companion Willy was making work-of-art Memopresentations with dry flies and taking some really nice fish. We floated a middle section of the Rio Carrileufu one afternoon, and I landed one after another, including an astonishing brown trout that rivaled the best I’ve ever landed. An hour later, I landed a football sized rainbow trout, and was so completely satisfied that I cut off my fly and retired it to the box, and spent the rest of the float taking pictures of Willy and Diego and sipping a cold beer.

People venture to the End of the World for many reasons; but some have an intent focus on fly fishing, and care little for how close the nearest golf course, spa, or shopping center is located. If this matches your intent, then Carrileufu River Lodge may be just the place to provide that old world experience and endless fly casting opportunities you dream of.


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